Thursday, 15 March 2007

London hoodies

Josh and I went to lunch yesterday, he's staying at the YMCA down the street from my office while he looks for a flat. We were sitting outside at a café at about the time schools let out, and of course, the madness began. Before long there was a deafening chorus of screaming adolescents, making noises reminiscent of something from Apocalypse Now. I turned to him and remarked, "welcome to London."
We both agreed that one of the first things you notice when moving to London is how obnoxious the kids are. I mean no joke, they're awful! Josh should know, he lived here for a year for school before moving back to New York in November, and now he's moved back.

There's a housing estate next to my office, and every day around 3 pm this cacophony of noise begins from the courtyard, bouncing off the prefabricated walls and pouring through our closed office windows. It honestly sounds like a village of women are getting raped and killed. For some reason, the teenage girls here enjoy screaming at the top of their lungs as if they're getting a red hot poker shoved into them. It's so bizarre.

The first time it happened at the office I jumped up and ran to the window, thinking someone was being attacked. I was so confused when the rest of my office just kept calmly sitting at their desks doing their work. They then explained to me that these were just the mating noises of the "hoodies," teenage hoodlums. Apparently everyone here is just used to it by now.

 And it's not limited to the housing estate next door. The noises emit from every corner of the city at 3pm. When I was at my flat on Tuesday moving the new bed in at 3pm the same noises came from the courtyard of my own estate. Shrieking, yelping, moans of agony. It's so bizarre.
Now I find it hard to believe that teenagers in London are just by character more obnoxious than those in New York. Yet I've never encountered anything like this in New York. The only instances I can recall that are anything like this is sometimes if you're on the subway around 3pm on the upper east or west side the kids will all pile into the train and be kind of obnoxious, but nothing that even approaches the kids here in London.

So here's what I think. Perhaps the reason that I encounter this here in London and didn't in New York is because there's just less kids in New York, or in Manhattan specifically. On the whole I would say I encounter teenagers far more often here than I did in Manhattan, and those teenagers that you do encounter in Manhattan tend to be of the precocious, urbane variety. Maybe it would be different out in Queens or Brooklyn, I wouldn't know I've never lived there (thank God). Perhaps because London is just so spread out, and there are so many schools spread all around the city, the likelihood that you'll encounter teenagers is increased. And teenagers are, by definition, obnoxious.

But I don't know, I've heard alternative explanations from Brits. Some have said that a lot of kids here are neglected. Others have theorized that because Brits are generally kind of stuffy, the teenagers like to scream and make a big scene as a way or rebelling (whereas they wouldn't get much of a rise out of people if they did it in New York).

But the phenomenon is certainly well known, enough so that numerous sketch comedy shows have regular characters centered around these girls (Catherine Tate, Little Britain) and Tory leader David Cameron even introduced an ill-advised campaign to rid Britain of the problem called "hug a hoodie." Here's a photo of Cameron with a hoodie he's presumably just hugged to the right.

But here's what I think it is. I doubt that teenagers here are any more obnoxious than they are in the states. I think the reason that I didn't encounter this kind of behavior in New York is because I was in Manhattan, and most of the kids I encountered there were probably from middle to upper class backgrounds. But because there is much more economic diversity in the geography of London, I'm not insulated from the 'great unwashed' here (I'm using that tongue in cheek!). Again, I have a feeling that if I hung around Flushing, Queens at 3pm I'd see the same sort of behavior.

And here's a somewhat related side note. I have never been in a city with so much puke on the streets! Every day on my walk to work I have to step over at least one puddle of vomit, and this morning I passed by three! A by-product of the binge-drinking culture I suspect, although it was probably spewed by one of those damn hoodies! Maybe they just need a good hug…

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